That first night after her little stint in the warp bubble, there are no dreams. She’s too exhausted to even change out of her clothes that feel like she’s worn them for days instead of just hours, and she wakes up the next morning tangled in her lab coat, with just enough time to get ready for work.
The night after that, she wakes up on an empty Enterprise, no clue whatsoever as to where the rest of the crew is. She knows it’s a dream by how familiar it feels, being utterly alone, and part of her keeps expecting an energy vortex to appear in front of her.
It never does, though, and she’s forced to sit and wait while the warp bubble eats away at the ship. The bridge is the last thing to go, slowly but surely disappearing into an eternity of blue nothingness. There’s nowhere left to run, so she stays in the captain’s chair until it eats her, too, and she can feel it, can feel herself disappearing bit by bit; feet first, and fingers, cold climbing up her limbs until only her head is left, and that, too, disappears after a while. And then she’s part of the warp bubble, part of the big nothingness, just floating, and still alone, before she finally wakes up.
The empty feeling of the dream stays with her all day, and she has to consciously pull her attention back to work more than once.
She’ll be damned if she lets Will win this round. She has the best hand she’s had in a while, everyone else has folded, and unless Will has a flush, she can finally take him down a notch. He’s been obnoxious about winning all evening, and there are only so many times she can lose her chips to his insufferable grin. It’s not about money, never has been, and not even really about honour. But the pair of kings in her hand go well with the third one on the table, and she’s fairly sure he’s bluffing anyway.
Throwing her remaining chips into the pot, she raises a challenging eyebrow at Will, a glance that doesn’t give away a thing. He mirrors her perfectly, right down to the eyebrow, and turns over his hand. Her eyes are still on his face, not the cards, and Data’s comment throws her for a loop.
“Full house; kings and sixes.”
But that’s her hand! She scrambles to get her cards turned over, then stares at the pair of threes.
Before she can so much as protest, Will flashes her another smirk and gets up from the table, leaving her sitting there, stunned into silence.
“Well, it’s been a pleasure playing with you all, but I believe my shift starts in five minutes.”
Next to her, Georgi laughs, and on the opposite of the table, she can hear Worf muttering under his breath, “unbelievable” and “not again”, until he, too, leaves with a frown on his face.
“Doctor, are you alright?”
Data gives her a look meant to seem concerned that she shakes off with a shrug.
“I’m fine, Data. I was just surprised.”
“Commander Riker did have exceptional luck today.”
“Yes. Exceptional…” she mumbles, still confused. “I need to get back to sickbay.”
“It was so weird, Deanna,” she complains later, fork stabbing viciously at the salad in front of her. “One minute, I could’ve sworn I had a pair of kings, and the next, Will puts them on the table and clears me out.”
“Maybe you were distracted?”
That earns Deanna a raised eyebrow.
“Distracted enough to hallucinate having the exact same hand as Will?”
The counsellor shrugs and digs into her bowl of fettuccine.
“Do you think he cheated?”
“I don’t see how he could have. Even if no one else had noticed, Data would have.”
Deanna nods her agreement. She knows how much Will loves poker, but he wouldn’t cheat.
A few minutes, half a glass of wine and a long sigh later, Beverly puts her fork down and sits back in her chair.
“I probably was distracted. Or maybe it was some kind of déjà-vu; maybe I’ve had that hand before and beaten Will with it.”
She’s glad Deanna doesn’t ask if she really thinks so, because she doesn’t. She’s sure she had two kings. Not even when she’d been trying to balance newborn Wesley and finishing the Academy had she been distracted enough to hallucinate something like this. But her friend lets the subject rest, and when they order dessert—gigantic portions of chocolate ice cream that Deanna talks her into—, she finally feels herself start to relax.
And the ice cream itself does the rest, soft and rich on her tongue. Somebody shouting on the other side of the room distracts them for a few seconds, and she turns around to see what’s going on. Not much, as it turns out, but when she turns back to the table, the ice cream bowls are gone. Usually, she wouldn’t put it past Deanna to steal her dessert, but she’d looked away for just seconds. Dee’s not that quick, not even when it comes to chocolate. And she doesn’t look the slightest bit guilty either, instead making a comment on how the cake looks good and how she wishes she had time for it before her next appointment.
She must be able to feel Beverly’s confusion, because for the second time in just as many hours, the doctor finds herself asked if she’s okay.
“Yeah, I just…”
For a moment, she considers telling Deanna, but she can imagine the look she’d get—slightly sceptical, more than a little worried—, and then there’d be the suggestion of getting herself checked out in her own sickbay and coming by for a counselling session. Beverly’s in the mood for neither, so she keeps her mouth shut and just shakes her head.
It’s only after Deanna leaves for her appointment that Beverly realises she’s still holding on to her dessert spoon.
“Mom, I have to do this.”
She doesn’t know if he’s trying to convince her or himself, because she gave her blessing ten minutes ago when he first told her. And she really needs to be on her way; her shift has already started, but she can’t for the life of her find her lab coat, and that only adds to the confusion of the day. It was right there on the couch when she left for lunch with Deanna.
“I know, Wes. You’ll be great.”
It pains her, of course, to see him leave, but would never ask him to stay when he wants—needs—to go. She just wishes he’d see his own potential.
“You think so?”
She stops the search for her lab coat for a moment and turns to him, hands on his shoulders.
“Of course, Wesley. The Academy will be good for you. And you’ll be good for the Academy.”
“I just don’t want to leave you alone here.”
She smiles at that. They haven’t really been separated ever since he was born, except for that one year that she was at Medical, and it will be difficult for both of them.
“I’ll hardly be alone; there are more than a thousand people aboard this ship.”
He grins, too, in understanding.
“You know that’s not what I mean.”
“I do,” she nods, letting go of him, “and I’ll be fine. If I can find my damn lab coat!”
His laughter echoes in their quarters even after he leaves, but she can’t enjoy it, not when she’s already late. And she knows she could just replicate a new lab coat, but it’s not the same, and dammit, it’s not like it could’ve gone anywhere by itself. She’s suddenly irrationally angry, and the old vase that somehow finds its way into her hand shatters against the wall with a satisfying sound.
A sound, though, that finally wakes her up, and this confusion is worse than the one she had after the last dream. Nothing feels quite right, even though she knows she’s finally back in the real world. Wesley’s on the ship, not leaving, Will didn’t clear her out (this time), and ice cream bowls don’t just disappear. Everything is as it should be, and yet not.
She takes three night shifts in a row, works herself harder than she has in a long time, just so she can pass out into a dreamless sleep. If any of her staff notice, they don’t say a word.
For a week or so, it works just fine, the workload and their current mission enough to keep her mind on other matters. But for once, the away team is entirely successful, and nobody ends up in her sickbay. It should feel good, and it does, but part of her curses the timing.
“We’ve never needed a crew before.”
It’s stupid that that one line should have stuck with her so much that she has an entire dream just centred around it. But then again, back in the warp bubble, she had gotten ready to finally tell him how she felt; that being friends might no longer be enough; how much she treasured him; that she had kissed him and it had been nothing short of effervescent, and that hadn’t even been really him.
“We’ve never needed a crew before.”
She can’t help but wonder what they did all day; if he didn’t have officers to command and she didn’t have patients to treat. He looked happy, and she falls asleep to the memory of his hand over hers.
Part of her is still surprised by how openly affectionate he is. But she doesn’t know why, because he’s always been this way. And why wouldn’t he be? It’s not like they have to hide from anyone. The ship is theirs, the entire galaxy is theirs.
They plot routes over breakfast, missions over dinner. Even after more than three years, new planets haven’t lost their beauty, the universe hasn’t lost its wonder. And whenever it does get a little lonely, they program the holodeck to his home town in France or the colony she spent her first shore leave on.
Sometimes, on the odd occasion that she has too much time to think, she feels like things aren’t the way they should be, feels this subtle pull to poker, to Klingons, to chocolate, to robots. She never has time to dwell on it, though, because Jean-Luc has gotten far too good at distracting her. That the engines never seem to need maintenance beyond what little they both know how to do doesn’t bother either of them, nor the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any use for so many things, from what is clearly meant to be a school of sorts to more holodecks than they could ever be in at the same time.
Not for lack of trying, though. He takes her out for dinner at least once a week, and for some reason, he’s taken to rotating the holodecks for those occasions. And sometimes, he seduces her there, too. Calls up a big four-poster bed in an old castle, a blanket on an open field, or the sofa from his first apartment.
The only place they haven’t yet been is the captain’s chair on the bridge. Although she suspects with how he’s been lately, even that won’t take long anymore. Right now, though, she’s perfectly content to have him in Ten Forward, where they have a small bar, a stash of real alcohol, and the best view of the stars.
Her hands splayed against the viewport windows, he bends her over and takes her where everyone could see, if there were any other people on the ship, and it’s with the stars filling her entire vision that she begins the steady climb towards their ultimate goal.
Waking up this time isn’t a relief. She’s so aroused she can barely breathe, let alone think sensibly, and she has to make an effort to stop herself from reaching for her communicator and calling the source of her current predicament. That thought, while absolutely ridiculous, does bring a smile to her face as she imagines the shock on his if she were to call him now.
A glance to the chronometer tells her she has an hour left before her wake-up call, but with the state she’s in, she won’t be able to go back to sleep. Her legs carry her to her shower where the warm water and her own two hands will have to be enough.
If only all dreams were as pleasant as this last one, she thinks that evening in the vague hope of a continuation before slipping into one that decidedly isn’t.
Everything is black and white, and it takes her a moment longer than it should to realise it’s her own vision, that one of her eyes isn’t one of her eyes anymore. Her left hand is missing, too, and the sight of the replacement makes panic creep up her spine.
She isn’t alone, at least, although once she sees who she’s with, the short moment of relief is over. The Borg. Something is happening, she can almost feel a kind of command arrive in her brain, can feel herself slipping away while someone—something—else takes control. And from that moment on, she’s forced to watch.
Forced to watch how the ship and its entire crew are assimilated, part of the collective now, resistance is futile coming from her mouth like a greeting would if she was in control.
Forced to watch how everything and everyone she’s ever loved is killed right in front of her, by her own hand.
She shoots Deanna in the head with a phaser, sees the light go out behind her eyes, body unmoving on the cold sickbay floor. Data and Georgi, pulverised in engineering, where they should be safe, where they should be working on a solution. Worf she kills with his own bat’leth outside his quarters, sliced from throat down to his intestines, and the blood that gushes onto the floor leaves her changed body with a strange sense of satisfaction. Her mind hasn’t stopped screaming since the first one—one of her interns, far too young to even be on this ship. Will is already half-dead by the time she gets to him, and she watches him struggle until he remains slumped in the turbolift.
Jean-Luc she leaves for last. He’s in his ready-room, the bridge already taken over, and it’s a simple feat to wrap her hand around his throat. She’s stronger now, and lifts his entire body with ease. Watches, as she tightens her fingers, how the life seeps out of him bit by bit. Inside, Beverly has stopped screaming, but only because she’s too horrified to do anything anymore. There are so many things she wants to tell him before this is all over. That she’s sorry; that she loves him; that she’s grateful for every moment they had together as friends, despite Jack’s death; that she never, not even for a moment blamed him. That she understands now.
The captain’s broken body hits the floor, and she isn’t even allowed to say goodbye.
Jerking awake, it takes her longer than usual after a bad dream to get her bearings. One of her med-kits isn’t far, and even in the near darkness of her quarters she can tell which vial is which.
She knows, in time, she’ll forget the details of the nightmare, but she’s sure she’ll always remember how she killed her friends, the places where they died, what it felt like to be the cause of so much suffering. Not for the first time, but certainly with a new understanding, she asks herself how Jean-Luc lives with it every day, lives with remembering what he was forced to do. It wasn’t just a nightmare for him.
The hypo is heavy in her hand, but the sedative gives her instant relief from the tension thrumming through her body. After that, it only takes a few minutes of tightly-shut eyes and nervous fiddling for her to relax enough to fall into a deep sleep that is, for once, free of dreams.
She’s woken up what feels like only minutes later by her communicator chirping away on her bedside table.
“Sickbay to Doctor Crusher.”
With a drawn-out sigh, she looks at the chronometer, the sight startling her out of bed. She’s more than an hour late for her shift, and she wonders how long her staff’s been trying to reach her.
Picking up the communicator, she tries to convince herself that at least she feels better now.
“Would you like to talk about what’s been bothering you?”
It’s a question, but Beverly knows Counsellor Troi isn’t really asking. She’s telling her to stop the secrecy and come right out with it. When she doesn’t, and ignores Deanna in favour of the sickbay monitor in front of her, the counsellor sits down next to her and fixes her with one of her patented glances.
“Your staff is worried about you. They’ve seen how distracted you’ve been. And then you overslept this morning. You never oversleep.” Then, in a softer tone of voice, “What’s wrong?”
Normally, it wouldn’t be nearly enough to get her to agree to counselling, but Deanna’s her friend, and she really does need to talk about this. Especially after last night.
“I’ve just been having a few bad dreams lately.”
“Since the warp bubble.”
Deanna nods, as though she understands, as thought she’s been waiting for this ever since the briefing after Beverly was trapped. And maybe she has.
“Tell me about the dreams.”
She dreads the dreams now, dreads sleeping.
Dreads waking up on an empty ship, almost as much as she dreads the possibility that she might again be the cause. That she might have killed her friends and colleagues.
For what feels like the hundredth time in a row, she walks the empty corridors of the Enterprise, her feet heavy, as though each step is a burden she can no longer carry.
When nobody responds to her hails, and not even the computer makes a sound, she knows she should check the bridge herself, and Ten Forward, and everyone’s quarters. But she’s tired, so, so tired, and just makes her way to her own living space.
The slight humming of the engines is the only sound she hears, and that, too, is wrong. This ship should be filled with people, with life.
“Deck 9,” she tells the turbolift, and it whirrs around her for a few seconds. She closes her eyes against the sound, the lights, the entirety of her lone existence aboard an abandoned spaceship.
The door to her quarters slides open and the darkness inside seems ominous somehow, almost threatening. So far, in all the dreams, her quarters have been her one refuge, untouched, unblemished by what’s happening to her. And now, they are no longer inviting either, no longer feel like home. But she’s too tired to think about that now, too.
Three more steps, and she’s in the main part of her living room, and something makes her hair stand on end.
Before she has time to analyse it, the lights go on off their own accord, and a shout comes from behind her.
Everyone is there, everyone. Jean-Luc, Deanna, Worf, Data, Will, Geordi, even Alyssa and some of her med techs from sickbay. Wesley is holding out a cake, and she makes the obligatory comment about hoping he had it replicated rather than baking it himself, which draws laughter from everyone. Beverly feels like she’s going to fly away any second, the burden gone from her shoulders because everyone is here and she is no longer alone.
The hug she gives Deanna probably tells her friend more than it should, and she’ll want to talk about it later, but for now, everyone is here and won’t leave again.
For the first time in weeks, there is a smile on her face while she sleeps.